Knowing the Shepherd
The image of the Lord as the Shepherd and us as the sheep is a very apt description of our human condition and our need for our Redeemer. Our own human behavior patterns and life habits are so much like that of sheep. We are stubborn, preferring to follow our own fancies and turn to our own ways. “We are all like sheep which have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own ways” (Is.53:6). Such stubbornness is interlocked with personal pride and self-assertion. We insist that we know what is best for us even though the disastrous results may be self-evident. Just as sheep will blindly, habitually, stupidly follow one another along the same little trails until they become ruts that erode into giant gullies, so we cling to the same habits that we have seen ruin other lives.
Obviously, we human beings need the help and support of the Good Shepherd to redeem us from our hopeless human situation. We need to listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd through the Church and its servant leaders to redeem ourselves from our fallen nature. As a community, we seek the will of God in our lives by our personal prayer and discernment and adherence to the Church’s teachings. We seek to encounter and experience God in everything we do. Constant connectivity with the Lord is what old theology refers to as “the state of grace”, in contrast to “the state of sin”.
In the gospels, we hear Jesus telling us: “I have come that they might have life and have it to the full…” Yes, it is only by following our Good Shepherd that we will be safe and find the pasture we need. If we resolutely choose to follow him – both in our private lives and in our public lives – we will be able to sing with the Psalmist: “The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want. In verdant pastures He gives me repose. Beside restful waters, He leads me. He refreshes my soul. He guides me in right paths for His name’s sake. Only goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life. And I shall dwell in the presence of the Lord for years to come.” (Ps 23:1-3, 6)